Tuesday 1 December 2015

Army ants 'mind the gap' efficiently

By Andrea Szöllössi
Science writer
25 November 2015

Ants are well-known for building with their bodies, but a new study has shown that army ants can optimise traffic flow using bridges that move.

Army ants are a predatory nomadic species: they raid other insect colonies and are always on the move, without a permanent nest.

In this lifestyle, finding the shortest foraging path - with sufficient workforce left over - is crucial.

The new research shows they adjust their bridges to find that balance.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists say their findings have implications for creating intelligent, self-assembling systems.

Sweet spot
Many species of ants show many complex, collective behaviours. Fire ants form rafts, bridges and tower structures, while weaver ants in Australia build chains that"sew" leaves together to make nests.

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